Lucretius Today Podcast 39 – The Mind And Spirit Are Not Supernatural But Parts of A Man Just Like The Head and Foot

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Episode 39 of the Lucretius Today Podcast is now available. Today’s episode is from Book Three, and focuses on the “mind” and “spirit” as parts of the body just like the hand or feet. This text includes discussion of the Greek theory of “harmony” and contains some difficult material that will take several episodes to sort through. As always we invite your comments and suggestions, both here and in the ongoing threat at –

Welcome to Episode 39 of the Lucretius Today Podcast. I am your host Cassius, and together with my panelists from the forum, we’ll walk you through the six books of Lucretius’ poem, and discuss how Epicurean philosophy can apply to you today. Be aware that none of us are professional philosophers, and everyone here is a self-taught Epicurean. We encourage you to study Epicurus for yourself, and we suggest the best place to start is the book, “Epicurus and His Philosophy” by Canadian professor Norman DeWitt.

The text for today is as follows –

Browne 1743 Edition:

First then, I say, the mind of man (which we commonly call the soul) in which is placed the conduct and government of life, is part of man no less than the hand, the foot, the eyes, are parts of the whole animal; though many of the philosophic herd have fancied that the sense of the mind is not fixed to any particular part, but is a sort of vital habit of the whole body, which the Greeks call Harmony; and thence flows all our sense, and the Mind has no particular place for its abode. As when we say health belongs to the body, yet it is no part of the body that is in health, so no particular part, they tell us, is the residence of the mind. But in this they seem to be egregiously wrong, for often when some visible part of the body suffers pain, we feel pleasure in some other part to us unseen; and the contrary often happens in its turn, that a man disturbed in mind is perfectly well all over his body, in the same manner as when a man has the gout in his foot, his head at the same time is free from pain.

Besides, when our limbs are given up to soft sleep, and the wearied body lies stretched at length without sense, there is something within that in the very time is variously affected, and receives into itself all the impressions of joy and empty cares that torment the heart. But to convince you that the soul is a part like other limbs, and not as a harmony, takes up the whole body, observe first that many members of the body may be cut off, yet often life remains in the rest; and again, the same life, when a few certain particles of vital heat fly off, and our last breath is blown through the mouth, immediately leaves possession of our veins and bones. And this will give you to understand that all the particles of matter are not of equal consequence to the body, nor do they equally secure our lives; but the particles of our breath, and the warm vapour, are of principal concern to preserve life to us in all our limbs. This warmth, this vapour, therefore resides in the body, and leaves our limbs as death makes approaches towards us.

But since the nature of the mind and soul is discovered to be a part of the man, give these fiddler’s their favorite word, Harmony, again, take from the music of the harp, or whencesoever they borrow the name, and applied it to the soul, which then – forsooth! – had no proper name of its own; however it be, let them take it again, and do you attend what follows.

I say then that the mind and soul are united together, and so joined make up one single nature; but what we call the mind is, as it were, the head, and conducts and governs the whole body, and keeps its fixed residence in the middle region of the heart. Here our passions live, our dread and fear beat here, here are joys make everything serene; here therefore must be the seat of the Mind. The other part, the soul, spread through the whole body, obeys this mind, and is moved by the nod and impulse of it.

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